Reclaimed: Love

This morning, we’re continuing our message series entitled “Reclaimed” which is all about becoming who you were created to be.  This series begins our focus on the work of the Holy Spirit and His ministry, the third core value of New Hope.

1 Timothy 1:15  (ISV)

This is a trustworthy saying that deserves complete acceptance:

To this world Christ Jesus came,

sinful people to reclaim.

We were each created uniquely and intentionally by God.  We were created on purpose and for a purpose.  The process of being reclaimed is all about reaching that full potential that we were created for.

This process of being reclaimed is an awesome cooperation between us and God.  God does all of the hard work.  He lived the perfect life that we could never live – fulfilling the law entirely.  He took on the cross paying the penalty for our sin.  He died that we might live.  He served all so that we might reign.  He made a way where there was no other way.  He went through the depths of hell so that we inherit the riches of Heaven.

God looks at us exactly where we are at – all of our shame and brokenness and hurt.  He knows all that we’ve been put through and He knows every bad decision that we’ve ever made.  He knows the dark thoughts that pass through our mind and the hard parts of our hearts that we try to hide.

Yet God considered that you and I were totally worth every sacrifice.  God sees you not only as you are, but as He created you to be.  God sees the rust and dents and missing pieces, but still paid top dollar for your life because He knows the potential that you possess.

Our lives might be quite the fixer-uppers, but God knows that you are worth the price that it cost to reclaim your life and the work that it will take to restore it!

We’ve been reminded throughout this series that our reclamation is all a work of the Holy Spirit transforming us from the inside out.  The apostle Paul, a man who lived his entire life dedicated to reading, studying, and living the law of God as closely as possible; a Pharisee of Pharisees determined to stop this Jesus movement at any cost, later wrote:

Philippians 3:7-9

7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

After meeting the resurrected Jesus personally, the living word of God, he realized the truth.  He stopped trying so hard to live by the law of God that only ever lead to death and he started actually living for God embracing the new life that he had been freely given.  He again wrote:

Galatians 2:19‭ NLT

For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law – I stopped trying to meet all its requirements – so that I might live for God.

What does it mean to live for God?  How could Paul possibly make statements like this?  If anyone looked at his life, it was extremely evident that he had been living passionately for God all of his life.  However, after Paul had a personal encounter with Jesus, he knew that all that he had done before was a religious waste of time.  It was him trying to live perfectly and earn God’s grace, mercy, and love.

There is something so freeing when we also turn to Jesus and realize this revelation.  The life that he lived before meeting Jesus was radically different than the life that he lived after meeting Jesus.  The results were clearly evident as well.  While the Holy Spirit is doing a work from the inside out to transform us, there are things that we can do as well.  It’s time for us as well to stop trying and to start living for God.

Living life for God after receiving the free gift of salvation by faith looks radically different from living life trying to earn God’s salvation by our own effort.  The works may look the same on the outside, but the heart motive inside is as different as night is from day.  The results are just as different as well.

One tries to force everyone into a mold of what a godly life should look like.  It is a life forced into a framework of do’s and don’ts.  It looks and talks and acts a specific way.  Anyone living short of it are looked down on.  It paves the highway to hell and slams the door to Heaven in their faces.

Read through Matthew 23 as Jesus details such a life that claims to be lived for God.  Shutting the door of Heaven, changing people to be twice the sons of hell that they are, tithing, but neglecting justice, mercy, and faithfulness, looking good on the outside, but dead on the inside, everything done for others to see, laying burdens on others and not helping them at all.  These are the ways that Jesus described such a life.

Living life for God is about freedom.  It is a life not lived to earn anything from God, but a life lived in gratitude for all that they have already freely received.  It is a life lived not greedily storing up treasure in Heaven by works, but working hard using their Heavenly treasure to generously enrich the lives of those around us.  It is a life of adventure and exploration in the revelation of the fullness of our salvation.

Living life for God is all about each of us embracing our uniqueness and diversity and finding our unity in Christ alone.  It is each of us fulfilling our various roles within the body of Christ so that we represent Him well to the world around us.  It isn’t about fitting a mold through conformity, it is about cooperating together in humility.

Living life for God is so simple.  To live for God is simply to love.

Jesus lived out the law of God perfectly and by doing so often was at odds with the religious leaders.  They were experts in the word of God and dedicated their lives to studying it and applying it.  Yet when the word of God came to life and stood right in front of them, they were offended at what they saw.

They were trying to trip Jesus up so that they could have a reason to accuse Him, reject Him, and maintain their false security that they found in their self-righteousness.  They never could find a way to do so, though.  In fact, Jesus had an incredible way of simply shutting them up and ensnaring them in their own trap.

Here, we find another recorded instance where this was happening.  This time, Jesus was being challenged by both the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Matthew 22:33-40

33 When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

All that is written in the Old Testament, the law and the prophets, point back to these two essential commandments.  To love God with our everything is the essence of the first five commandments and to love others is the essence of the second five.  All of the law given through Moses pointed back to how to practically live out this type of selfless and sacrificial love for God and others.

To live for God is to love.

What is awesome about this reality is not only its pure simplicity, but also its vast diversity.  There are countless ways to express this love for God and others.  Sure, there are common ways that we spur each other on to be and to do, but even those common things can be expressed in many ways.  God’s word is full of the various ways that His peopled expressed this love.

Everything from being in the armed services to playing music to studying and teaching to building homes to feeding the hungry to artwork to parenting to healing the sick to just about anything that you can think of that serves others can be expressions of God’s selfless love.

The more that we get to know Jesus, the more that our desires will change.  The more that we receive His love, the more that it fills and flows through our lives. 

From the time that we were born, we have lived our lives for ourselves and to do whatever pleases our flesh and what makes sense to us.  When we give our lives to Jesus, He says that we are born again.  Not born again in our flesh, but born brand new by the Spirit.

This new life that we have been given desires what is contradictory to the way that we lived before.  This new life is lived selflessly for the benefit of others; seeking and saving the lost just as Jesus did.  This new life trusts God and embraces who He created us to be.  It trusts that His ways are better than ours.

Transforming from our old lives to our new lives is a process and an adventure.  We’re being reclaimed and repurposed.  It is full of new experiences and fresh revelation.

Stop trying to follow all of the do’s and don’ts on your own human effort and find freedom in simply living for God by the Holy Spirit.  Ironically, you’ll find that by doing so, you’ll actually begin to fulfill God’s law.

The question this morning isn’t whether or not we should go on living as we are or whether we should fully surrender our lives to Jesus so that we might actually live.  We’d be fools not to take Him up on this amazing offer!

The question this morning is what it means for you and I personally after making that decision.  To live for God is to love Him and others with all we are.  What does that practically look like for you and I?  What is it that God is calling us to personally accomplish?  What were we uniquely created to do?

Each day, we can wake up and ask God that question and launch the adventure of discovering the answer.  How do you want me to love you and love others today?

Colossians 3:23-24

23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.